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A 293rd Garland of British Light Music Composers

We have been looking at music hall composers quite a bit recently. Music hall monologues are arguably amongst the most basic of types of light music but they were popular in their day so here are a few - probably late Victorian - examples with their composers, most of whom produced several instances of the form: A Dickens Monologue (George Phillips), The Cabman’s Railway Yarn (Alan Staines),The Bus Conductor (Will Kings), My Old Football (Milton Hayes), My Motor Car ( Barclay Gammons) and The Little Crossing Sweeper (Lettice Newman). Of course, these people did not confine themselves to composing monologues. J Bond Andrews for example, wrote the monologues - not all of them humorous, incidentally - Snowflakes, The Lesson of the Water Mill, The Game of Life, If Only We Knew and Behind The Veil, plus the songs Alice (1893), The Coster ’Oneymoon (1893) and The Nipper’s Lullaby, all sung by Albert Chevalier,The World Went Very Well Then and Vulcan, the comic opera, Herne’s Oak or The Rose of Windsor (1887) and an operetta The Lass That Loved a Sailor (1893).

Among other music hall song producers were Penystone Miles, known for his Wishes (1914), Earnest Barry ( ‘Ilda, 1932) and James (Jimmy) Godden, singer and composer of My Advice (1912), To Cut a Long Story Short (1913) and Slowly But Surely (1911). Arthur Askey CBE (1900-82) had a long career as a theatrical, film, radio and TV artist who could turn his hand to almost anything; it seems certain that he was responsible, at least in part, for composing some of the songs he sang, for example,The Sportsman (1934), Ding Dong Bell (1942) and The Bee, The Worm, The Seagull and other songs from The Bandwagon Song Book.

The well loved figure of Arthur Askey has brought us almost up to date, but, to end with here is a mention for the name Geoffrey Cummings-Knight, a teacher who has produced a number of very singable songs and duets – Crocodile Rag, which I heard recently, was very catchy and up-tempo.

Philip L Scowcroft

August 2002

A 294th Garland of British Light Music Composers

George Mitchell , OBE (1971-2002) was an arranger rather than a composer (though he was also responsible for some original music) but as a conductor of choirs who made their mark on radio and television, among them the George Mitchell Glee Club (radio) and the Black and White Minstrels (TV), he did plenty of inventive arranging and surely earns a place in these Garlands.

Simon Fraser earns his mention for incidental music for BBC Radio, most recently for the Conquest of the South Pole (by Roald Amundsen of course, not by Captain Scott).

Going much further back here is another purveyor of Victorian dance music – Jane Clarkson, active in the 1840s and 1850s, whose titles included the waltzes Le Déluge de la Jeunesse and Les Fleurs d’Hiver and the Electric Quadrilles, all for piano although it is possible that at least some of them were at some time heard played by a dance orchestra.

Now finally for another group of composers associated with the music hall. Several of these were singers as well as composers likeWill Bishop whose song publications included Deep Depressions and Oxo the Wrestler (1934) orWillie Rouse (Married v Single, 1912 and Disappearances) or W J Williams (the splendidly titled Fearless Freddie From the Foreign Legion (The Riffs Are Getting Rougher Every Day) (1930)).

Marriott Edgar ’s biggest moment was to write the book for Vivian Ellis’s 1933 musical Jill Darling; for the music hall he composed the song We Moved Away From There (1929) and sundry monologues including The Lion and Albert. Charles J Winter composed many songs in the pre-1914 era, especially He’s a Funny Little Way With Him, The Caretaker, Oh I Do Like an ’Arf of an ’Addock and also monologues like The Cabby’s Lament and The Street Watchman’s Story, as did James A Lowe with Suspicions and Impressions. Nelson Jackson’s areas bestrode the Great War with titles like When Father Laid the Carpet on the Stairs (1899) through The Kill Joys, Let’s Have a Song About Father, Our Labour Saving Home and The Special Constable toThis Wonderful England of Ours. Warwick Pryce flourished in the 1920s with songs like Movie Mad (1927) andIt Must Be Nice to be a Man. Clarkson Rose composed songs either side of the Second War, favourites likeDear Dear Dear Dear Dear!, Resuscitated Rhymes, Back I Went to the Ministry of Labour andPeacetime Percy is Back in Piccadilly. Women composers played their part in the music hall too, like Rosalie Carter with Packing and Shopping.

Philip L Scowcroft

August 2002

A 295th Garland of British Light Music Composers

We begin with brief mentions for song composers for music hall or variety stage who were active during the 1930s with just one example of the work of each of them: Jimmie Cross (If That Aint Life What Is?), Onslow Tuckley (The Waters of Baden, 1939), and Charles E Mumford (Crazy Gardening, 1933).

Now for a selection of the many dances and marches by or for military bandmasters in the generation prior to the end of the Great War (broadly, 1890-1920). There were J C Johnson’s Yeomanry Polka, dedicated to the Band of the East Lothian and Berwickshire Yeomanry, Morning Bell and Night Bell, galops by J P Clarke, Bandmaster of the 11th Hussars, both popular pieces, apparently, Danse Moresque by W A Kilner and the waltzes Regrets by T Frederick Wade,Dreamland Valses by R E Batho (for the 4th Royal Irish Rangers), Memories by Llewellyn Sylvester Tonkin and Cupid’s Dream Waltz by Bandmaster W Money of the 7th Dragoon Guards. Among the marches of that period were Second-in-Command by Sidney Gambrill, Welcome Victors byDague R Pryor, London Scottish, dedicated to that regiment by its composer Cecil Wynne, The King’s 14 th by Charles V Payne and Yorkshire Dragoons by Arthur W Whittaker.

Finally a mention for Lawrence Leonard, better known as a conductor, but he was also an arranger, notably of Mussorgsky’sPictures at an Exhibition, one of more than dozen made by various hands for orchestra, and a composer whose light-hearted Break for Orchestra achieved a certain amount of exposure a quarter of a century or so ago.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 296th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Again we start with a trio of song composers for the music hall and again with just one example of their work; this time we feature those who were active during the 1920s. Lance Stirling (My Revolver, 1928, humorous but black humour and with a vengeance), Pierse Duncombe (Little Things, 1928, a sentimental example) and Walter R Randall (He Showed Oi The Way , 1922).

Now for a group of composers associated with brass or wind bands: May Isaacs, worth mention for Playtime (1968) andWith Best Wishes, both for brass; Patrick Charles Rivers, arranger and the composer of Folksong Rhapsody, Portrait of Brunel (1970) and Off The Cuff, all for bras band; David Barker, worth mention for his Christmas Suite for wind band, of 1984; Gavin Smith, responsible for the North-East Fantasy (for brass, 1981), Katie’s Jubilee Suite, for oboe and piano and the dance band studies snappily entitled Snippets for Saxes; and Roy Slack .

Slack was a prolific arranger for just about every instrument you could think of and for voices, too. His original compositions include A Toye for trumpet and piano, Three Little Dances for three clarinets and, all for brass band, Flourish (1966) and, from 1978, the Alacita Suite.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 297th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Once again we gebegin with music hall composers, two of them, both from the pre-1914 era. Harold Montague , respokosble among other things, for My Bestly Weyeglass (1908); and Arnold Blake, whose cutbhbert clarnec eand Claude appeared in 1912.

Mia Soteriou continues to compose indcidnetal music for BBC Radio , most recently (12002) fopr adapatations of J B preistley’s The Good Companions and George Gissings New Grub Street.

Now for a grpoup of cpompsoers who have over the pasyt forty years written music for orchestras ofor other ensembles of young amateurs. People, for example, like David W Jepson, whose Fetsival March was p[ublished in 1983, Michael Sefton whose works include a Tango-Nocturne for orchestra, dating fromm 1959 and Fanfare, Lullaby and Cherokee War Dance, all form 1980.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 298th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Once again I put the spotlight on composers for the music hall, initially on those active during the first two decades of the 20th century, three of them, again with one example of their work: Stuart Debnam (Looks, 1916), Maurice Vince, also a singer ( The Artful Yokel, 1919) and Langton Marks (Put the Cheese and Butter in the Pantry, 1919).

Reg Low , also a music hall singer, had a career spanning two decades and then some. His songs for the music hall included My Idea of a Girl (1907),The Ideal Home (1914), Beware, Beware and Little Brown Baby. He wrote for revues, too, such as the curiously titled Tower Typical Tokens, Rate and from 1922, The Co-Optimists.

Now for yet another of those purveyors of ‘mood music’ (or “production music”) miniatures for the Recorded Music Libraries who were so active around the middle of the 20th century; Harvey Richards, whose best known piece was probably At Sundown, seems to have worked primarily for the Mozart Edition.

Finally a mnentiond d for Samuel Rhosdes , who was Director of Music to the Sxcots Guards for no fedwer than 44 years in the early par tof the 20 th century and whos ebest known composition was a march Golden Spurs.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 299th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Again composers for the music hall and related art forms play a substantial part in this 299th nosegay. Claude Chandler, composer of the songs The Undertaker (1923) and I Had One With Him (1925), Edward Treacey (I Would If I Could – But I Can’t, So I Won’t, 1922), Arnold Nickson (And Besides, 1921) and Clarence Weston, responsible for What Does He Call You Girls? (1924), all had their best days during the 1920s.

Kenneth and George Western , famed in their day as music hall/variety artists, broadcasters, lyricists and song composers, who came to the fore in the 1920s with numbers likeWhere Are They? and Nineteen Hundred Years Ago and followed those with titles like In Merrie Old England Now, Twenty Thousand Scotchmen, Before You Came and the revue Vaudeville Vanities. Their association with the BBC developed particularly in the 1940s and this yielded songs like Play The Game You Cads, We’re frightfully BBC and The Old School Tie.

Christopher Steel (1939-91) studied at the Royal Academy of Music with John Gardner and in Munich. His works include six symphonies, various concertos, several cantatas, but as befits one who spent much of his career teaching at different schools, his works are eminently accessible and tuneful. His lighter compositions included a Divertimento for wind, Five Diversions for strings, the dance East and West (a percussion showpiece for schools), the Jacobean Suite for piano, the suite Odyssey for brass band, a Suite for descant recorder and piano, Sonatinas for piano and clarinet and a setting of Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant (1981) for baritone and children’s voices.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 300th Garland of British Light Music Composers

Firstly we have another sprinkling of song composers for the music hall and variety stages, roughly in chronological order. From the period prior to the Great War there is Harrison Hall, a singer, who achieved popularity with My Juliet (1903), and Roland Henry’s The Funny Instrument (1906) also enjoyed success. Charles Cory’s If You Knew Muvver was a hit of 1918. Moving forward to the 1930s we may pick out The Willows (1931) by Don Shepherd, Reggie (1936) by Fred Stanton and Woman’s Work (1934) by Sue Pay. Murray Browne was a singer on the variety stage and his song compositions included It’s All Fanny’s Fault That She’s Forty and O’Rafferty’s Here, both from 1949.

From roughly that latter period Henry L Sachs produced a number of what we might describe as cabaret songs, like Her Gown and the Four Whimsical Songs (The Little Worm, especially popular, The Symphony, Grandma and The Stranger) of 1947.

Paul Adrian Rooke , born in 1945 and educated at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge has some features in common with Christopher Steel from Garland 299. Both spent much of their careers teaching in schools, both wrote accessible music and both set Oscar Wilde’s Selfish Giant featuring children’s (and other) voices. Rooke’s works include song-cycles, chamber music, and a symphony and on the lighter side the Jubilee Overture and Suite for wind and percussion, Ariel and Caliban, both these for youth ensembles.

Finally for two figures both of whose names include that of a Sussex seaside resort and who are known – to me at least – for just one short orchestral piece each: Hastings Mann for Westward Ho! used as TV signature music and the rather earlier Ernest W Hastings for his Commissionaire.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 301st Garland of British Light Music Composers

Music hall/variety stage song composers continue to yield names for these Garlands. Here are six more of them, in roughly chronological order, with a sample of the work of each: Robert Manning (When Richard The First Sat on the Throne (1908), Bernard Kitchen (Exit Muriel, 1928 and District Visitor, 1936); Reg Belmont (No Wonder Our Coals Have Been Going, 1930),Mary Windsor (Cathy Conversations, 1931), J Beverley-Hoad (Fiddler Dooley’s Farm, 1938); and John Wise (You Can’t Keep Cats in Flats, 1938).

Now for a few mainly orchestral recollections from various parts of the first half of the 20th century. Joseph H Adams and Ernest Alder came from the earlier part of that period. Adams’ orchestral Swiss Scenes – comprising four movements entitled: Morning in the Alps, a barcarolle, Lovely Lucerne, The Angelus and Evening – achieved some popularity and he also published ballads like Song for the Joy of Life. Alder can be represented here by two orchestral miniatures, a Minuet-Scherzo and the ‘Mélopée orientale’ (Mélopée means threnody or possibly recitative) Les Aimées. From rather later in the century we may mention Peter Anderson for his song arrangements and the march Step Lightly.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002

A 302nd Garland of British Light Music Composers

We begin with a composer from the very beginning of British light music as a concept. In June 1834 an advertisement appeared in the press (I saw it in the files of the Doncaster Gazette) stating that the pianist C D Hackett had just published tbe Quadrilles, Les Elegantes, also Les Trois Waltzes (sic) and an air with variations Emma (I do not know if this was inspired by Jane Austen). These pieces were clearly light music as we understand the term and no doubt the quadrilles and the waltzes were subsequently heard in the ballrooms as well as the concert rooms.

Now for mentions of three of the mid-20th century mood music composers, mostly represented here by just one composition (but many others of that ilk were known, even in their day, for one short piece): Peter Barrington whose Peacock Patrol for orchestra appeared in 1954; Richard Bell, best remembered for Pennants in the Breeze, also for orchestra; and G H J Blackmore, arranger and composer, whose work, which included the orchestral novelty Spring Fever and the organ solo Festal Day, was published by Bosworth.

Stanley Bate (1911-59) one thinks of as a serious composer with four symphonies, many concertos and some chamber music to his credit, but his ballet scores, of which the best known was Highland Fling (1946), perhaps bring him within the scope of these Garlands.

Finally here is another cluster of music hall composers from different periods of the first half of the 20th century: Lawrence Harvey, composer of songs like A Fishy Fishing Story (1906) and I Had a Little Garden (1908) and monologues such as The Girl on the Stairs (1912); Felgate King for the Parson of Puddles (1923); Alec McGill He’s A Dear Old Man (1926) and Oi’m Goin’ Back ’Ome Today (1935) and Cyril Side for his Jenny the Wren, published in 1951.

Philip L Scowcroft

September 2002



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